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Virginia Rappe

AKA Virginia Caroline Rapp

Born: 7-Jul-1891
Birthplace: New York City
Died: 9-Sep-1921
Location of death: San Francisco, CA
Cause of death: Abdominal Hemorrhage
Remains: Buried, Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Hollywood, CA

Gender: Female
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Victim, Actor

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Fatty Arbuckle scandal

Virginia Rappe was born out of wedlock -- then considered shameful -- to a part-time chorus girl and a father who was never named. Her mother was arrested for kiting checks when Rappe was a young girl, and died when she was 11, leaving Rappe an orphan. In her teens she worked as a model, and she later landed small roles in several silent films, and a featured role in An Adventuress opposite Rudolph Valentino. She was engaged to film producer Henry Lehrman, and starred in A Twilight Baby, but the film was not a great success. In life, her greatest fame came from being the cover girl for the best-selling sheet music of "Let Me Call You Sweetheart". Her surname at birth was Rapp, but she preferred to have her stage name spelled and pronounced as if it was French, "rap-pay".

On 5 September 1921, 30-year-old Rappe attended a party thrown by major movie star Fatty Arbuckle in three adjacent suites at the luxurious St Francis Hotel, overlooking Union Square in downtown San Francisco. Prohibition was the law of the land, but the party had lots of contraband liquor, and Rappe probably drank plenty. She was sick before the party was over, and died of a ruptured bladder four days later. Arbuckle was charged with manslaughter, and salacious (but unfounded) rumors that he had raped her with a Coke bottle made Rappe far more famous in death than she had ever been in life. 8,000 people viewed her corpse at a Los Angeles church before her funeral, and theaters nationwide scrambled to book any film that featured her.

Arbuckle was acquitted of manslaughter, and the reason for Rappe's bladder injuries remains a mystery. The most widely-held theory is that the damage was caused by a botched abortion a few days before the party, and aggravated by gonorrhea. Her fiancÚ, filmmaker Henry Lehrman, married another woman a few months after Rappe's death, but after his own death decades later he was buried beside Rappe at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Mother: Mabel Rapp (chorus girl)
Boyfriend: Robert Moscovitz (designer, engaged 1910s, d. trolley accident)
Boyfriend: Henry Lehrman (film producer, b. 30-Mar-1886, dated and engaged 1917-21, d. 7-Nov-1946)

    Abortion
    Autopsy
    Risk Factors: Gonorrhea



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